Today is my birthday. It’s great to be 22 again!

As it turns out, I have quite a few January 17th birthday buddies who are just a little more famous than I am. Here they are, and since I’m a church historian, I’ll start with church history:

Catherine Booth (1829 – 1890)

Female preacher extraordinaire and founder of the Salvation Army, a denomination that is found in 131 countries and has provided humanitarian aid to millions of people. She was also an advocate of better labor conditions for working women in London. Happy Birthday, Mother Catherine!

Anne Brontë (1820 – 1849) 

The least renowned Brontë sister, but in my opinion, the best. Not only is The Tenant of Wildfell Hall a daring tale of escape from adultery and emotional abuse that was ahead of its time, but it’s “arguably the first sustained feminist novel.” I’d argue that it has aged far better than Emma’s more famous Wuthering Heights (with its abusive “Byronic” male protagonist) and Charlotte’s most famous Jane Eyre (with its appalling treatment of mental illness). So I’ll burn a candle for you, Anne, even if the literary world won’t.

Michelle Obama (b. 1964)

Our erstwhile FLOTUS. Classy, compassionate, and the NRA’s got nothing on her guns. Ms. Obama, I may not have voted for your husband either time, but I salute you.

Al Capone (1899 – 1947)

Notoriously violent Chicago gangster and mob boss, taken down by a woman and syphilis. But a woman probably gave him the syphilis, so we’re taking credit for that, too.

Ben Franklin (1706 – 1790)

Inventor of the lightning rod, bifocals, and America. Good job, Ben Franklin!

Eartha Kitt (1927 – 2008)

Best Catwoman EVER. Most of her stuff was a little before my time, but I also remember her fondly from “Santa Baby,” Ernest Scared Stupid and Big Fish. Happy birthday, Ms. Kitt, and rest in peace.

Carlos Gracie, Jr. (b. 1956)

Added in 2019: if you’re friends with me on Facebook or follow me on Instagram, you know that I took up Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in August of last year, and that I love it. Given that my initials are BJJ, it must be fate. Anyhow, I train at a Gracie Barra (the largest BJJ affiliation) and it turns out that the founder of Gracie Barra shares a birthday with me. Happy birthday, Master Carlos Gracie, Jr.!

Song Kang-ho (b. 1967)

If you have not seen The Host (the South Korean horror film, not that awful Stephanie Meyer nonsense) and the Vengeance Trilogy (he’s in two of them), stop everything you are doing and go watch those movies NOW. It may be my birthday, but I’ve just given you a gift. And happy birthday Mr. Kang-ho!

James Earl Jones (b. 1931)

He’s Darth-Vader / Mufasa / Owner of The Beast and you do NOT mess with him. Happy birthday, Mr. Jones and me! (I’m sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Jim Carrey (b. 1962)

He’s never won an Oscar, but you have to admit, there’s been quite a range to Jim Carrey’s acting career. From the funny but touching (Truman Show, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) to the plain funny (The Mask, Dumb and Dumber) to the surprisingly theologically robust (Bruce Almighty) to the movies we wish we could un-make (Ace Ventura, Sonic the Hedgehog [probably]), there’s a little something Jim Carrey for everybody. Oh, and he did win a Golden Globe, and dated Linda Ronstadt, so that’s awesome and happy birthday, Mr. Carrey!

Muhammed Ali (1942 – 2016)

Boxing legend, philanthropist. Happy birthday and rest in peace, Mr. Ali.

Steve Harvey (b. 1957)

Merry Christmas, Steve Harvey! Wait, sorry, it’s your birthday.

Maury Povich (b. 1939)

To be honest, this is my favorite one on this list. Without Maury we wouldn’t have the “You are NOT the father!” dance.

Happy birthday, Mr. Povich!

The following people are also at least a little famous and also have birthdays today: Kid Rock (b. 1971), Betty White (b. 1922), Zoey Deschanel (b. 1980), and Calvin Harris (b. 1984). Also, about a million YouTube / social media / reality television “stars” whom I’m not going to list here, but I wish them a very happy birthday.

So there you have it. Great things happen on January 17th, and somehow, so did I!

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